Everton: Tall order for Toffees to avoid early season slump
Everton face a tall order if they’re to overcome their traditional early season slump, with the newly-released fixture list pitting them against a string of sides with a point to prove.
From the opening game against Manchester United at Goodison, where the deposed champions will doubtless want to send a clear message to the rest of the league, the Blues will potentially face opposition with extra levels of determination in their first nine games of the season.
New managers Paul Lambert, Steve Clarke and Michael Laudrup all lie in wait alongside newly promoted Southampton and the likes of Alan Pardew and (possibly) Roberto Martinez, who will be going all out to prove that last season’s reputation-building exploits were no fluke. That’s not to mention QPR and Mark Hughes, who always seem to have something to prove in light of their epic levels of bluster, arrogance and ill-advised transfer policy.
Then, of course, there is the [not-so-] mighty Liverpool. Putting my blue aversion aside momentarily, there can be little doubt that this team no longer carries the same presence it once had. A team that finished eighth last season and led by a new manager with a fairly tepid career record should rarely be seen as a significant threat in any circumstances.
However, if Liverpool get off to an underwhelming start – they play Arsenal, United and City, so it’s highly possible - then new man Brendan Rodgers will be desperate to curry favour with fickle Liverpool fans by notching his first derby win. Experience also warns me that, even if they struggle against plenty of teams, there’s still a good chance they’ll beat us.
It’s only when we reach the relatively calm waters of November, with games against Fulham and Sunderland - two sides against whom we enjoyed much success last season – and Reading and Norwich, when the progress of Brian McDermott and Chris Hughton’s sides will already have started to map itself out.
Given our history of slow starts and a fairly perilous early fixture list, 15 points from the first 27 available might be considered a good return.
Calling all Everton fans: Do you agree with Barry? Can Everton come firing out of the blocks this season or do you fear another slow start? What do you think of the first nine games? How many points do you think you can achieve? Whatever your view, we'd love to hear from you.